UKA update on project to achieve gender equity in elite coaching

Following the publication of the research paper “Achieving Gender Equity in High Performance Athletics Coaching in the UK”, the UKA is pleased to offer the latest ongoing update on this topic.

In February 2021, the Female Coaching Network (FCN) published the article which highlighted several serious issues facing female coaches in sport and some reasons for the lack of female coaches in performance coaching.

The report prepared by the Center for Research on Social Justice in Sport and Society at Leeds Beckett University highlighted several key findings, including:

  • a lack of female team coaches in GB & NI international teams; including no female representation among the coaching staff of any World, European or Olympic team
  • a culture of performance coaching underpinned by unequal gender assumptions
  • that coaching in the UK is under-professionalised and unregulated
  • there is a culture of poaching of athletes
  • minor status of women coaches
  • incidents of sexual harassment and abusive coaching environments

The UKA and HCAF backed the report’s findings, implementing several immediate changes, including zero-tolerance policies and lifetime bans for abusive coaches, as well as the inclusion of female coaches in GB and NI squads. since the 2021 indoor season.

With this in mind, however, the UKA and HCAFs have recognized that there are gaps in addressing gender equity in coaching that still need attention and have worked in consultation with the FCN. to ensure that further progress is made, including taking into account feedback from coaches. who continue to bring to their attention living examples of ongoing challenges.

Beth Harris, a performance pole vault coach and sports development professional who has also served as president at club, regional and national level, has been tracking the progress of the change since the research was published. She liaised with the UKA and England Athletics to share her insights and experiences and to encourage the development of transparent and fair systems and practices. With valuable feedback like this from current coaches, it is clear that this will clarify the coaching journey, a more positive experience for all coaches, and lead to a more equal balance between male and female coaches.

Beth said:

“I am encouraged by the UKA’s response to the FCN research, published in February 2021, and our discussions over the last 4 months, including their review of operational improvement, support and training practices. I look forward to seeing a significant cultural shift as a result, with the UKA truly accountable to their action plan for gender equity in training and likewise the HCAFs vis a vis their own plans ED&I action plan.

“I think it’s important that our governing bodies recognize that good practice begins within and with oneself. As such, with a much better understanding of fair marketing, social media, communication and recruitment now commonly available across the industry, it is time for up-to-date working practices to be implemented by all, and not just by a conscientious few, with staff supported and confident in recognizing and challenging unfair processes.

“Simple improvements in aspects such as increased awareness of how to avoid repeat bias in recruitment practices, or a failure to understand the impact of bad media and social media practices, can make a real difference. difference for people in the field when implemented correctly.

“When it comes to tackling inequality, there is often a risk of focusing only on targeted campaigns or programs to increase the number of active coaches within a marginalized group, instead of s interest in the fundamental behaviors and practices of those who run these programs. As such, I am delighted to see the implementation of training for all staff employed, and hope that this will go some way to mitigating the adverse and negative impacts on people in the field.

UKA and EA greatly appreciate Beth’s feedback and suggestions and are asking for more coaches to provide feedback which can help by highlighting more areas for improvement.

UKA Head of Coaching Development Jackie Newton said:

“I want to thank Beth for reaching out, raising concerns and suggesting where improvements can be made and how best to approach them. By taking a critical and constructive look at the field, we can solve any problems and share these results for the benefit of all. Beth’s comments to us prompted an in-depth discussion between the UKA and the HCAFs. We believe that collective learning will help us all improve.

“In addition to long-term plans to embed ED&I, with a common understanding of inclusion, across all of our organizations, we are making short-term commitments to develop and advance our gender equity plans. Beth highlighted, and we recognize, that there are people on our teams who are beacons of great practice, but that we are not all at the same starting point. Our goal is to amplify their voices, raise awareness and implement training for our staff and employed coaches.

“We at UKA are due to bring news of our action plan on gender equity in coaching in the coming weeks. We’ll detail tactics and projects that will embed gender equity into our DNA, redefine who is considered the “norm” as a coach, improve communication and engagement, and bring together a stronger coaching community. collaborative. As part of the engagement improvement goal, we will create a dedicated channel for Coaches to provide feedback on our progress.

“We invite all coaches to ask questions, as well as highlight any concerns so that we can adapt and learn from them. We also welcome good news, acknowledgment of positive practices and any other feedback on what we With this contribution we will accelerate our progress and so I ask you to continue to hold us to account because the faster we learn, the faster we will succeed and change the status quo.

Sarah Benson, Head of Talent Development at England Athletics said:

“England Athletics is committed to creating cultural change in the coaching landscape. The ED&I Action Plan released in England is the system-wide plan to which we are held accountable, but we are additionally committed to training ED&I to all staff and people who deliver programs and activities for us to establish clear leadership in this space The balance that exists between women and people from diverse backgrounds, especially at the higher levels of the Performance training does not reflect our sport or society at large and we need to accelerate change.

“England Athletics aims to tackle gender inequality through sport with specific programs and actions for women, including the establishment of the England Athletics Women in Coaching programme, support for UK Coaching Women in High Performance Coaching Programme, increasing the number of female coaches in England teams and Talent Pathway programmes, promoted the Educare course on equality and diversity in sport, and had positive promotional guidelines in our advertising of training opportunities.If we have failed to model best practices and have not adhered to our published guidelines and expected practices, we will review this and ensure that we do better.

“We appreciate the communication and feedback on all our activities so that we can continue to benefit from the work being done alongside the UKA, other Home Country Athletics Federations (HCAFs) and our partners. We remain more committed than ever to driving positive change in our sport, through close collaboration and consensus, and recognize that there is still much work to be done.

“I would like to thank Martin Rush, our outgoing Head of Coach and Athlete Development and his team for the work that has been done in this area to date.”

In March 2022, the UKA Board accepted delivery of the UKA Action Plan for Gender Equity in Coaching, developed in consultation with the Female Coaching Network. This plan and its objectives will be announced later this month.


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